Latisha Webb, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change
Originally, the purpose of this study was to develop a grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) in the substantive area of identity formation (Cross & Cross, 2007; Erikson, 1980), with a gender-specific focus on women (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1986; Gilligan, 1982; Jones & Shorter-Gooden, 2003). After much deliberation, I interviewed men to generate a theory that meets the grounded theory evaluation requirements. Ten women and three men from various lifestyles provided qualitative data through in-depth interviews. The core variable, Discovering the Authentic Self, emerged from the data. Discovering the Authentic Self includes the journey of the outer self reflecting the inner self, which creates personal harmony. The authentic self consists of basic human needs and core values. The journey of Discovering the Authentic Self occurred in the concurrent processes of Being and Becoming. The participants lived their lives every day as they engaged in the process of Being. During the process of Being, the participants figured things out, concentrated, set goals, and remained grounded. During the process of Becoming, the participants envisioned, remained conscious, learned by observation and directly from others, and recognized milestones. The participants’ innate desires to satisfy their basic needs and align their core values internally and externally motivated them to discover their authentic selves. Their internal motivators included self-identifying, having a willingness to learn, develop, and explore, and doing inner work. Their external motivators included life circumstances, other people’s expectations, and exposure. The participants also experienced internal and external hindrances. Their internal hindrances included self-doubting, fearing, being unwilling, and changing one’s mind. Like their external motivators, the participants’ external hindrances included life circumstances, other people’s expectations, and exposure. The cyclical process of Being and Becoming occurred when the participants took the initiative. The participants faced internal and external factors in the cyclical process of Being and Becoming by overcoming obstacles. Finally, the participants experienced their authentic selves on six interdependent domains: spiritual, psychological, emotional, sexual, physical, and social. Recommendations for practice to individuals, mental health professionals, spiritual leaders, parents, and entrepreneurs are discussed.
Keywords: identity formation, authentic self, self-discovery, being and becoming, grounded theory, internal and external motivators and hindrances